Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective

Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial
Author(s): Donna Haraway
Source: Feminist Studies, Vol. 14, No. 3 (Autumn, 1988), pp. 575-599
Published by: Feminist Studies, Inc.
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Academic and activist feminist inquiry has repeatedly tried t come to terms with the question of what we might mean by t curious and inescapable term “objectivity.” We have used a lot toxic ink and trees processed into paper decrying what they ha meant and how it hurts us. The imagined “they” constitute a k of invisible conspiracy of masculinist scientists and philosophe replete with grants and laboratories. The imagined “we” are t embodied others, who are not allowed not to have a body, a fin point of view, and so an inevitably disqualifying and polluting bia in any discussion of consequence outside our own little circle where a “mass”-subscription journal might reach a few thousa readers composed mostly of science haters. At least, I confess these paranoid fantasies and academic resentments lurking und neath some convoluted reflections in print under my name in feminist literature in the history and philosophy of science. W the feminists in the debates about science and technology, are Reagan era’s “special-interest groups” in the rarified realm epistemology, where traditionally what can count as knowledg policed by philosophers codifying cognitive canon law. Of cour a special-interest group is, by Reaganoid definition, any collect historical subject that dares to resist the stripped-down atomism o Star Wars, hypermarket, postmodern, media-simulated citize ship. Max Headroom doesn’t have a body; therefore, he alone s everything in the great communicator’s empire of the Global N work. No wonder Max gets to have a naive sense of humor and kind of happily regressive, preoedipal sexuality, a sexuality th Feminist Studies 14, no. 3 (Fall 1988). ? 1988 by Feminist Studies, Inc.
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576 Donna Haraway
we ambivalently -with dang be reserved for lifelong in and maybe also white mal tronic confinement.
It has seemed to me that feminists have both selectively and
flexibly used and been trapped by two poles of a tempting
dichotomy on the question of objectivity. Certainly I speak for
myself here, and I offer the speculation that there is a collective
discourse on these matters. Recent social studies of science and
technology, for example, have made available a very strong social
constructionist argument for all forms of knowledge claims, most
certainly and especially scientific ones.’ According to these tempt-
ing views, no insider’s perspective is privileged, because all draw-
ings of inside-outside boundaries in knowledge are theorized as
power moves, not moves toward truth. So, from the strong social
constructionist perspective, why should we be cowed by scien-
tists’ descriptions of their activity and accomplishments; they and
their patrons have stakes in throwing sand in our eyes. They tell
parables about objectivity and scientific method to students in the
first years of their initiation, but no practitioner of the high scien-
tific arts would be caught dead acting on the textbook versions.
Social constructionists make clear that official ideologies about ob-
jectivity and scientific method are particularly bad guides to how
scientific knowledge is actually made. Just as for the rest of us,
what scientists believe or say they do and what they really do have
a very loose fit.
The only people who end up actually believing and, goddess for-
bid, acting on the ideological doctrines of disembodied scientific
objectivity-enshrined in elementary textbooks and technoscience
booster literature-are nonscientists, including a few very trusting
philosophers. Of course, my designation of this last group is prob-
ably just a reflection of a residual disciplinary chauvinism ac-
quired from identifying with historians of science and from spend-
ing too much time with a microscope in early adulthood in a kind
of disciplinary preoedipal and modernist poetic moment when
cells seemed to be cells and organisms, organisms. Pace, Gertrude
Stein. But then came the law of the father and its resolution of the
problem of objectivity, a problem solved by always already absent
referents, deferred signifieds, split subjects, and the endless play
of signifiers. Who wouldn’t grow up warped? Gender, race, the
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Donna Haraway 577
world itself-all seem signifiers in a cosmic f In any case, social co ideological doctrine of verbiage about epistem tion from getting to k sciences. From this poin is rhetoric, a series of one’s manufactured kno objective power. Such ture of facts and artifa the knowledge game. powerful art of rheto very much on practic agonistic power field knowledge joins with deconstruction to insist scientific truth. Histor other; science is a conte the form.2 Period.
So much for those of u with more confidence they discuss the Secon the final destruction o peals to real worlds ar cynicism and an act of much space we genero cally specific mediati must know the world radical social construc postmodernism, couple the human sciences, th fields, of moves in a f the working metapho ated reality for the pos agery of high-tech m fields, where blips of l phor!) each other in o game. Technoscience a their radiant (ir)realityThis content downloaded from on Mon, 16 Jan 2017 21:49:23 UTC
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theory to sense the enem clear in her concept of a I, and others, started out ing the truth claims of torical specificity, and so of scientific and technolo kind of epistemological ushering us into the hig public truths, lays us ou personality disorder. We in science (that proved the good scientific sheep seemed promising to do tionist argument that lef versus objectivity, use science. We unmasked t threatened our budding and agency and our “embo ed up with one more exc physics and one more r practices of repairing ou let the boys have them Some of us tried to sta sembling times by holdin Here, motivated by many seductive end of the ob was polluted at the sour domination of nature in closely related impoten women did that didn’t q promising resource as a hygiene that sought our o starting points offered a point theories, insistent e hegemony without dise and a way to get to nuan of psychoanalysis were phone object relations t socialist feminism for a t or Engels, much less AlthThis content downloaded from on Mon, 16 Jan 2017 21:49:23 UTC
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ship treating the su Another approach, feminist uses of M which continues to in which remains leery semiology and narrat count of the world; i tingency and modes feminists, find ours of many practicing mostly believe they a of all their construc particularly insistent ding calls the goal o nists have stakes in adequate, richer, bet well and in critical, practices of dominat pression that make categories, the issu epistemology.
So, I think my problem, and “our” problem, is how to have simul-
taneously an account of radical historical contingency for all
knowledge claims and knowing subjects, a critical practice for
recognizing our own “semiotic technologies” for making meanings,
and a no-nonsense commitment to faithful accounts of a “real”
world, one that can be partially shared and that is friendly to
earthwide projects of finite freedom, adequate material abun-
dance, modest meaning in suffering, and limited happiness. Har-
ding calls this necessary multiple desire a need for a successor
science project and a postmodern insistence on irreducible dif-
ference and radical multiplicity of local knowledges. All compo-
nents of the desire are paradoxical and dangerous, and their com-
bination is both contradictory and necessary. Feminists don’t need
a doctrine of objectivity that promises transcendence, a story that
loses track of its mediations just where someone might be held
responsible for something, and unlimited instrumental power. We
don’t want a theory of innocent powers to represent the world,
where language and bodies both fall into the bliss of organic sym-
biosis. We also don’t want to theorize the world, much less act
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580 Donna Haraway
within it, in terms of G wide network of connec translate knowledges amo ated – communities. W theories of how meaning deny meanings and bodi bodies that have a chance for life.
Natural, social, and human sciences have always been impli-
cated in hopes like these. Science has been about a search for
translation, convertibility, mobility of meanings, and universality-
which I call reductionism only when one language (guess whose?)
must be enforced as the standard for all the translations and con-
versions. What money does in the exchange orders of capitalism,
reductionism does in the powerful mental orders of global
sciences. There is, finally, only one equation. That is the deadly
fantasy that feminists and others have identified in some versions
of objectivity, those in the service of hierarchical and positivist
orderings of what can count as knowledge. That is one of the
reasons the debates about objectivity matter, metaphorically and
otherwise. Immortality and omnipotence are not our goals. But we
could use some enforceable, reliable accounts of things not reduci-
ble to power moves and agonistic, high-status games of rhetoric or
to scientistic, positivist arrogance. This point applies whether we
are talking about genes, social classes, elementary particles,
genders, races, or texts; the point applies to the exact, natural,
social, and human sciences, despite the slippery ambiguities of the
words “objectivity” and “science” as we slide around the discursive
terrain. In our efforts to climb the greased pole leading to a usable
doctrine of objectivity, I and most other feminists in the objectivity
debates have alternatively, or even simultaneously, held on to
both ends of the dichotomy, a dichotomy which Harding des-
cribes in terms of successor science projects versus postmodernist
accounts of difference and which I have sketched in this essay as
radical constructivism versus feminist critical empiricism. It is, of
course, hard to climb when you are holding on to both ends of a
pole, simultaneously or alternatively. It is, therefore, time to
switch metaphors.
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I would like to proceed by placing metaphorical rel much maligned sensory system in feminist discourse: v sion can be good for avoiding binary oppositions. I wou insist on the embodied nature of all vision and so reclaim the sen-
sory system that has been used to signify a leap out of the marked
body and into a conquering gaze from nowhere. This is the gaze
that mythically inscribes all the marked bodies, that makes the un-
marked category claim the power to see and not be seen, to repre-
sent while escaping representation. This gaze signifies the un-
marked positions of Man and White, one of the many nasty tones
of the word “objectivity” to feminist ears in scientific and tech-
nological, late-industrial, militarized, racist, and male-dominant
societies, that is, here, in the belly of the monster, in the United
States in the late 1980s. I would like a doctrine of embodied ob-
jectivity that accommodates paradoxical and critical feminist
science projects: Feminist objectivity means quite simply situated
The eyes have been used to signify a perverse capacity-honed
to perfection in the history of science tied to militarism, capi-
talism, colonialism, and male supremacy-to distance the know-
ing subject from everybody and everything in the interests of
unfettered power. The instruments of visualization in multina-
tionalist, postmodernist culture have compounded these meanings
of disembodiment. The visualizing technologies are without ap-
parent limit. The eye of any ordinary primate like us can be end-
lessly enhanced by sonography systems, magnetic reasonance
imaging, artificial intelligence-linked graphic manipulation sys-
tems, scanning electron microscopes, computed tomography scan-
ners, color-enhancement techniques, satellite surveillance sys-
tems, home and office video display terminals, cameras for every
purpose from filming the mucous membrane lining the gut cavity
of a marine worm living in the vent gases on a fault between con-
tinental plates to mapping a planetary hemisphere elsewhere in the
solar system. Vision in this technological feast becomes unregulated
gluttony; all seems not just mythically about the god trick of seeing
everything from nowhere, but to have put the myth into ordinary
practice. And like the god trick, this eye fucks the world to make
techno-monsters. Zoe Sofoulis calls this the cannibaleye of mas-
culinist extra-terrestrial projects for excremental second birthing.
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A tribute to this ideo unrestricted vision, w neously celebrated and found in the volume c tional Geographic Soci magazine’s quest lit photography, with two introduced by the e nothing.”8 This chapter displays the color-enh assembled from digital let the viewer “experien vision of the “object.”9 neously as indubitable heroic feats of techno the twin of outer space “The stuff of stars has to the realm of the inf outside the wave length primates, that is, th microscopes, whose sig color snapshots of def But, of course, that v trick. I would like to s the particularity and cessarily organic embo tion), and not giving in to disembodiment and usable, but not an in feminist writing of t sion again, because we through all the visuali and technologies that We need to learn in ou stereoscopic vision, ho and political scanners in dimensions of men to name. So, not so pe particular and specific false vision promising This content downloaded from on Mon, 16 Jan 2017 21:49:23 UTC
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ty. The moral is simp tive vision. All Weste allegories of the ideol mind and body, distan about limited location cendence and splitt become answerable for what we learn how to see.
These are lessons that I learned in part walking with my dogs
and wondering how the world looks without a fovea and very few
retinal cells for color vision but with a huge neural processing and
sensory area for smells. It is a lesson available from photographs of
how the world looks to the compound eyes of an insect or even
from the camera eye of a spy satellite or the digitally transmitted
signals of space probe-perceived differences “near” Jupiter that
have been transformed into coffee table color photographs. The
“eyes” made available in modern technological sciences shatter any
idea of passive vision; these prosthetic devices show us that all
eyes, including our own organic ones, are active perceptual
systems, building on translations and specific ways of seeing, that
is, ways of life. There is no unmediated photograph or passive
camera obscura in scientific accounts of bodies and machines;
there are only highly specific visual possibilities, each with a
wonderfully detailed, active, partial way of organizing worlds. All
these pictures of the world should not be allegories of infinite
mobility and interchangeability but of elaborate specificity and
difference and the loving care people might take to learn how to
see faithfully from another’s point of view, even when the other is
our own machine. That’s not alienating distance; that’s a possible
allegory for feminist versions of objectivity. Understanding how
these visual systems work, technically, socially, and psychically,
ought to be a way of embodying feminist objectivity.
Many currents in feminism attempt to theorize grounds for
trusting especially the vantage points of the subjugated; there is
good reason to believe vision is better from below the brilliant
space platforms of the powerful.” Building on that suspicion, this
essay is an argument for situated and embodied knowledges and
an argument against various forms of unlocatable, and so irrespon-
sible, knowledge claims. Irresponsible means unable to be called
into account. There is a premium on establishing the capacity to
see from the peripheries and the depths. But here there also lies a
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serious danger of roma the less powerful while from below is neither “we” “naturally” inha jugated knowledges. Th empt from critical re interpretation; that is modes of critical inqu not “innocent” positio because in principle t critical and interpreti edgeable of modes of disappearing acts-way comprehensively. The to the god trick and a minations. “Subjugate seem to promise more ing accounts of the wor requiring at least as mu mediations of vision, tions.
Such preferred positio vism as to the most exp tific authority. But the and single vision, whi whose power depends The alternative to rela edges sustaining the solidarity in politics a Relativism is a way of where equally. The “eq sibility and critical inqu totalization in the ideol location, embodiment, possible to see well. tricks” promising vis and fully, common my is precisely in the polit that the possibility of So, with many other fThis content downloaded from on Mon, 16 Jan 2017 21:49:23 UTC
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practice of objectivity passionate constructio formation of systems just any partial perspec tivisms and holisms b “Passionate detachmen self-critical partiality those points of view, promise something qu for constructing wor From such a viewpoin appear-quite a differe act. The imaginary an vision – hover close tog science and for postm ment for the idea that mative knowledge and critical inquiry are joi objectivity or rationalit repressions. It is even revolutions in terms of jectivity. Science has b that is one reason “we” need it.
A commitment to mobile positioning and to passionate detach-
ment is dependent on the impossibility of entertaining innocent
“identity” politics and epistemologies as strategies for seeing from
the standpoints of the subjugated in order to see well. One cannot
“be” either a cell or molecule-or a woman, colonized person,
laborer, and so on-if one intends to see and see from these posi-
tions critically. “Being” is much more problematic and contingent.
Also, one cannot relocate in any possible vantage point without
being accountable for that movement. Vision is always a question
of the power to see-and perhaps of the violence implicit in our
visualizing practices. With whose blood were my eyes crafted?
These points also apply to testimony from the position of “oneself.”
We are not immediately present to ourselves. Self-knowledge re-
quires a semiotic-material technology to link meanings and bodies.
Self-identity is a bad visual system. Fusion is a bad strategy of posi-
tioning. The boys in the human sciences have called this doubt
about self-presence the “death of the subject” defined as a single
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ordering point of will a bizarre to me. I prefer t morphic subjects, agent from the vantage point master subject. The W wandering eye, a traveli been violent and insiste self-but not always. We learning to participate in in earth-transforming ch not to be done from scratch.
The split and contradictory self is the one who can interrogate
positionings and be accountable, the one who can construct and
join rational conversations and fantastic imaginings that change
history.13 Splitting, not being, is the privileged image for feminist
epistemologies of scientific knowledge. “Splitting” in this context
should be about heterogeneous multiplicities that are simulta-
neously salient and incapable of being squashed into isomorphic
slots or cumulative lists. This geometry pertains within and among
subjects. Subjectivity is multidimensional; so, therefore, is vision.
The knowing self is partial in all its guises, never finished, whole,
simply there and original; it is always constructed and stitched to-
gether imperfectly, and therefore able to join with another, to see
together without claiming to be another. Here is the promise of ob-
jectivity: a scientific knower seeks the subject position, not of
identity, but of objectivity, that is, partial connection. There is no
way to “be” simultaneously in all, or wholly in any, of the privi-
leged (i.e., subjugated) positions structured by gender, race, na-
tion, and class. And that is a short list of critical positions. The
search for such a “full” and total position is the search for the
fetishized perfect subject of oppositional history, sometimes ap-
pearing in feminist theory as the essentialized Third World
Woman.14 Subjugation is not grounds for an ontology; it might be
a visual clue. Vision requires instruments of vision; an optics is a
politics of positioning. Instruments of vision mediate standpoints;
there is no immediate vision from the standpoints of the sub-
jugated. Identity, including self-identity, does not produce science;
critical positioning does, that is, objectivity. Only those occupying
the positions of the dominators are self-identical, unmarked,
disembodied, unmediated, transcendent, born again. It is unforThis content downloaded from on Mon, 16 Jan 2017 21:49:23 UTC
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tunately possible for into that subject p Knowledge from the tastic, distorted, and jectivity could not po point of the master, appropriates, and ord God of monotheism o trick is self-identical, knowledge, omniscie Positioning is, there edge organized aroun scientific and philoso tioning implies respon that politics and ethics may count as rational and ethics ground str natural, social, and simply impossible, a comprehensively. His histories of the techn social orders, practic practices. How to see What to see for? Wh one point of view? W interprets the visual f to cultivate besides v the paradigm for ratio ogies of vision. Sandr ments of social revolu in science might be quences of new techn had spent more tim revolutions have not always been visionar another phrase: the sc what will count as ra over how to see. Th colonialism, the scien question in feminismThis content downloaded from on Mon, 16 Jan 2017 21:49:23 UTC
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The issue in political reductionisms, or othe be relativism-but loc point might look like universal rationality
common language
new organon
unified field theory
world system
master theory
oppositional positioning
local knowledges
webbed accounts
But a dichotomous chart misrepresents in a critical way the posi-
tions of embodied objectivity that I am trying to sketch. The pri-
mary distortion is the illusion of symmetry in the chart’s di-
chotomy, making any position appear, first, simply alternative
and, second, mutually exclusive. A map of tensions and reason-
ances between the fixed ends of a charged dichotomy better repre-
sents the potent politics and epistemologies of embodied, there-
fore accountable, objectivity. For example, local knowledges have
also to be in tension with the productive structurings that force
unequal translations and exchanges – material and semiotic – with-
in the webs of knowledge and power. Webs can have the property
of being systematic, even of being centrally structured global
systems with deep filaments and tenacious tendrils into time,
space, and consciousness, which are the dimensions of world
history. Feminist accountability requires a knowledge tuned to
reasonance, not to dichotomy. Gender is a field of structured and
structuring difference, in which the tones of extreme localization,
of the intimately personal and individualized body, vibrate in the
same field with global high-tension emissions. Feminist embodi-
ment, then, is not about fixed location in a reified body, female or
otherwise, but about nodes in fields, inflections in orientations,
and responsibility for difference in material-semiotic fields of
meaning. Embodiment is significant prosthesis; objectivity cannot
be about fixed vision when what counts as an object is precisely
what world history turns out to be about.
How should one be positioned in order to see, in this situation of
tensions, reasonances, transformations, resistances, and com-
plicities? Here, primate vision is not immediately a very powerful
metaphor or technology for feminist political-epistemological clariThis content downloaded from on Mon, 16 Jan 2017 21:49:23 UTC
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fication, because it see cessed and objectified tanced. But the visual pearances, which are o us to investigate the v cluding the prosthetic eyes and brains. And for processing region pictures of the world. technologies in which phors and means for terns of objectification for which we must b means for appreciatin aspect and the aspect scientific knowledge.
I am arguing for polit ing, and situating, whe dition of being heard are claims on people’s li always a complex, co body, versus the view city. Only the god t deciding the science q technology of perfec order.
Feminism loves anoth terpretation, translat Feminism is about th least) double vision. Fe upon a critical positi space.16 Translation i Here is a ground fo tivity – which is power not even the mythic c rectly caricatured in knowledges -that have inist paradigmatic mo of the perfectly know ized scientific productiThis content downloaded from on Mon, 16 Jan 2017 21:49:23 UTC
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Wars paradigm of r nerability; location re row from Althusser, the last instance.” That is because feminist embodiment resists fix-
ation and is insatiably curious about the webs of differential posi-
tioning. There is no single feminist standpoint because our maps
require too many dimensions for that metaphor to ground our vi-
sions. But the feminist standpoint theorists’ goal of an
epistemology and politics of engaged, accountable positioning re-
mains eminently potent. The goal is better accounts of the world,
that is, “science.”
Above all, rational knowledge does not pretend to disengage-
ment: to be from everywhere and so nowhere, to be free from in-
terpretation, from being represented, to by fully self-contained or
fully formalizable. Rational knowledge is a process of ongoing cri-
tical interpretation among “fields” of interpreters and decoders. Ra-
tional knowledge is power-sensitive conversation.7 Decoding and
transcoding plus translation and criticism; all are necessary. So
science becomes the paradigmatic model, not of closure, but of
that which is contestable and contested. Science becomes the
myth, not of what escapes human agency and responsibility in a
realm above the fray, but, rather, of accountability and respon-
sibility for translations and solidarities linking the cacophonous vi-
sions and visionary voices that characterize the knowledges of the
subjugated. A splitting of senses, a confusion of voice and sight,
rather than clear and distinct ideas, becomes the metaphor for the
ground of the rational. We seek not the knowledges ruled by
phallogocentrism (nostalgia for the presence of the one true Word)
and disembodied vision. We seek those ruled by partial sight and
limited voice-not partiality for its own sake but, rather, for the
sake of the connections and unexpected openings situated knowl-
edges make possible. Situated knowledges are about communities,
not about isolated individuals. The only way to find a larger vision
is to be somewhere in particular. The science question in femi-
nism is about objectivity as positioned rationality. Its images are
not the products of escape and transcendence of limits (the view
from above) but the joining of partial views and halting voices into
a collective subject position that promises a vision of the means of
ongoing finite embodiment, of living within limits and contradic-
tions-of views from somewhere.
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Throughout this reflection on “objectivity,” I have ref resolve the ambiguities built into referring to science with ferentiating its extraordinary range of contexts. Through tent ambiguity, I have foregrounded a field of commonalit ing exact, physical, natural, social, political, biological, a sciences; and I have tied this whole heterogeneous academically (and industrially, e.g., in publishing, the trade, and pharmaceuticals) institutionalized knowledg tion to a meaning of science that insists on its po ideological struggles. But, partly in order to give play t specificities and the highly permeable boundaries of m discourse on science, I would like to suggest a resoluti ambiguity. Throughout the field of meanings constituting one of the commonalities concerns the status of any o knowledge and of related claims about the faithfulness counts to a “real world,” no matter how mediated for matter how complex and contradictory these worlds ma inists, and others who have been most active as critics sciences and their claims or associated ideologies, have s from doctrines of scientific objectivity in part because of cion that an “object” of knowledge is a passive and inert th counts of such objects can seem to be either appropria fixed and determined world reduced to resource for instrumen-
talist projects of destructive Western societies, or they can be seen
as masks for interests, usually dominating interests.
For example, “sex” as an object of biological knowledge appears
regularly in the guise of biological determinism, threatening the
fragile space for social constructionism and critical theory, with
their attendant possibilities for active and transformative interven-
tion, which were called into being by feminist concepts of gender
as socially, historically, and semiotically positioned difference.
And yet, to lose authoritative biological accounts of sex, which set
up productive tensions with gender, seems to be to lose too much;
it seems to be to lose not just analytic power within a particular
Western tradition but also the body itself as anything but a blank
page for social inscriptions, including those of biological discourse.
The same problem of loss attends the radical “reduction” of the ob-
jects of physics or of any other science to the ephemera of disThis content downloaded from on Mon, 16 Jan 2017 21:49:23 UTC
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cursive production and But the difficulty and lo from the analytic traditi transformative history we name this scandalous source for appropriation, ly itself only matter for Here, the object both gu knower, but any status must be denied the object tified as a thing, not as formation of the only s edge, the human knower. this mode of knowing in ond birthing of Man thr body into resource for raw material of culture alted, or otherwise mad logic of capitalist colonia act of gender; the produ tions of Western binary narrative logic accounts distinction in the recen sourced” for its represent has seemed all but impo tionist logic of dominatio and its generative lineag It seems clear that fem ment-that is, of a worl quire a deceptively simp analytical traditions, a m short of the needed rev the object of knowledge b screen or a ground or a master that closes off t authorship of “objective clear in critical approa where the agency of peo project of producing soc the agency of the “objecThis content downloaded from on Mon, 16 Jan 2017 21:49:23 UTC
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error and false knowle same point must ap sciences. A corollary covertly or overtly pr as a heterogeneous w granting the status of tors come in many a world do not, then, power-charged social speaks itself nor dis codes of the world are is not raw material f humanism, another have made this poin crudely hinted at by t the world encountere Insofar as a scientific sion of the world as be imagined and can trine of representa anything. The appro “realism,” which has the world’s active age My simple, perhaps new in Western philos in relation to the sci question of gender female embodiment. tent on some version o to be mapped and ap culinist projects. Ac knowledge makes r cluding a sense of th sense of humor is not comfortable for humanists and others com-
mitted to the world as resource. There are, however, richly
evocative figures to promote feminist visualizations of the world as
witty agent. We need not lapse into appeals to a primal mother
resisting her translation into resource. The Coyote or Trickster, as
embodied in Southwest native American accounts, suggests the si-
tuation we are in when we give up mastery but keep searching for
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594 Donna Haraway
fidelity, knowing all th these are useful myths nist objectivity makes of all knowledge prod We just live here and by means of our pros technologies. No won writing practice in re theory as a reinvented many heterogeneous a Another rich feminis decades illustrates par viously passive categor permanently proble gender, without elimi reconstructions in p women’s practice as p behavioral ecologists female sex, in scient biological discourse, b biological determinism “sex”‘ has been so thor emerges as practically basic has happened to female peopling curre no passive properties respect; the “body” i theorized biologically from gene to foraging the biological politics gender need to be cate knowledge. I would lik strategies in biology is jects of feminist objec tures of the biological testation and conversa foreground knowledge articulation. The boun the stakes in this alle and organism.
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Donna Haraway 595
So I will close with a f situated knowledges: analysis of the produ value, Katie King offer debates among femin literary production” to tersection of art, bu literary production is Focusing on the poten plies her analytic fram technologies.21 I wou the generation-the bodies and other objec At first glance, there i in the “facticity” of bi discourse and its kno duced” or “generated” i early stirrings of Rom many poets and biol ganisms are siblings. F this proposition. I con but in a postmodern a late the ideological dim cumbersome entity c wieldy term is intend active, meaning-genera without ever implying what is the same thing can count as objective ture. Like “poems,” w language too is an act bodies as objects of k nodes. Their boundaries materialize in social interaction. Boun-
daries are drawn by mapping practices; “objects” do not preexist as
such. Objects are boundary projects. But boundaries shift from
within; boundaries are very tricky. What boundaries provisionally
contain remains generative, productive of meanings and bodies.
Siting (sighting) boundaries is a risky practice.
Objectivity is not about disengagement but about mutual and
usually unequal structuring, about taking risks in a world where
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596 Donna Haraway
“we” are permanently m have, finally, no clear a biological bodies emerge and writing, medical and such as the visualization essay. But also invited analogue to the lively lan duction of literary value: of the world as witty age ing reduced to mere re mutter-but coyote, a fig tent tie between meanin nist hopes for partiality, on conversations and code bodies and meanings. H science fiction converge Perhaps our hopes for a nism, turn on revisioning we must learn to converse.
This essay originated as a commentary on Sandra Harding’s The Science Question Feminism, at the Western Division meetings of the American Philosophical Associat San Francisco, March 1987. Support during the writing of this paper was generous provided by the Alpha Fund of the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, N Jersey. Thanks especially to Joan Scott, Judy Butler, Lila Abu-Lughod, and Dori Kondo.
1. For example, see Karin Knorr-Cetina and Michael Mulkay, eds., Science Observed:
Perspectives on the Social Study of Science (London: Sage, 1983); Wiebe E. Bijker, Thomas
P. Hughes, and Trevor Pinch, eds., The Social Construction of Technological Systems
(Cambridge: MIT Press, 1987); and esp. Bruno Latour’s Les microbes, guerre et paix, suivi
de irrdductions (Paris: M6tailid, 1984) and The Pastuerization of France, Followed by Ir-
reductions: A Politico-Scientific Essay (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1988). Bor-
rowing from Michel Tournier’s Vendredi (Paris: Gallimard, 1967), Les microbes (p. 171),
Latour’s brilliant and maddening aphoristic polemic against all forms of reductionism,
makes the essential point for feminists: “M6fiez-vous de la puret6; c’est le vitriol de
l’ame” (Beware of purity; it is the vitriol of the soul). Latour is not otherwise a notable
feminist theorist, but he might be made into one by readings as perverse as those he
makes of the laboratory, that great machine for making significant mistakes faster than
anyone else can, and so gaining world-changing power. The laboratory for Latour is the
railroad industry of epistemology, where facts can only be made to run on the tracks
laid down from the laboratory out. Those who control the railroads control the surThis content downloaded from on Mon, 16 Jan 2017 21:49:23 UTC
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Donna Haraway 597
rounding territory. How cou rupt railroads we need as th 2. For an elegant and very he see Hayden White, The Conten tation (Baltimore: Johns Ho fulfilled desire can be a pow 3. In “Through the Lumen: F University of California at will forgive me the metapho sis of science fiction culture wonderful focus on the ideo in Western mythics of scien Sofoulis’s arguments and me 4. Nancy Hartsock, Money, (Boston: Northeastern Unive 5. Crucial to this discussion (Ithaca: Cornell University P Science (New Haven: Yale U Standpoint: Developing the G in Discovering Reality: Femini of Science, eds. Sandra Hard Reidel, 1983): 283-310; Jan conscious,” in Discovering Re Feminist Theory,” Signs 12 Grontkowski, “The Mind’s E Work, Women’s Knowledge, chell and Ann Oakley (Ne Manifesto for Cyborgs: Sc Socialist Review, no. 80 (Ma “Fetal Images: The Power of Studies 13 (Summer 1987): 2 Aspects of the debates abou of the problem of “objectivi modernism in ethnograph authorization or prohibition Strathern made the crucial parallel to the work of art a modernist natural-technical tice, stand on one side of th side, with its “anti-aesthetic deferred “objects” of know selves, and cultures. “Objec problematic objects; it must At root, objectivity is about name things to be stable a translates into a question of non-innocent conversations and connections. What is at stake in the debates about
modernism and postmodernism is the pattern of relationships between and within
bodies and language. This is a crucial matter for feminists. See Marilyn Strathern, “Out
of Context: The Persuasive Fictions of Anthropology,” Current Anthropology 28 (June
1987): 251-81, and “Partial Connections,” Munro Lecture, University of Edinburgh,
November 1987, unpublished manuscript.
6. Harding, 24-26, 161-62.
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598 Donna Haraway
7. John Varley’s science fiction sistence of Vision (New York: Del tion. In the story, Varley const deaf-blind. He then explores th munication and their relation Champagne,” in Blue Champagn the theme to interrogate the po woman whose prosthetic devi because the infinitely costly de entertainment empire, for whi keep her technological, intimate, ty in the commodification of all perience for sale? Is the persona Varley’s repeated investigation abled beings, prosthetic techno despite their extraordinary tran the personal and political in the era of techno-biopolitics. Prosth our most intimate selves. Prost not for transcendence, but for 8. C.D.B Bryan, The National Ge (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 9. I owe my understanding of t University of California at San reader.
10. Bryan, 454.
11. See Hartsock, “The Feminist Standpoint: Developing the Ground for a Specifically
Feminist Historical Materialism”; and Chela Sandoral, Yours in Struggle: Women Respond
to Racism (Oakland: Center for Third World Organizing, n.d.); Harding; and Gloria An-
zaldua, Borderlands/La Frontera (San Francisco: Spinsters/Aunt Lute, 1987).
12. Annette Kuhn, Women’s Pictures: Feminism and Cinema (London: Routledge &
Kegan Paul, 1982), 3-18.
13. Joan Scott reminded me that Teresa de Lauretis put it like this:
Differences among women may be better understood as differences within women …. But once
understood in their constitutive power -once it is understood, that is, that these differences not only
constitute each woman’s consciousness and subjective limits but all together define the female subject
of feminism in its very specificity, is inherent and at least for now irreconcilable contradiction-these
differences, then, cannot be again collapsed into a fixed identity, a sameness of all women as
Woman, or a representation of Feminism as a coherent and available image.
See Theresa de Lauretis, “Feminist Studies/Critical Studies: Issues, Terms, and Con-
texts,” in her Feminist Studies/Critical Studies (Bloomington: Indiana University Press,
1986), 14-15.
14. Chandra Mohanty, “Under Western Eyes,” Boundary 2 and 3 (1984): 333-58.
15. See Sofoulis, unpublished manuscript.
16. In The Science Question in Feminism (p. 18), Harding suggests that gender has three
dimensions, each historically specific: gender symbolism, the social-sexual division of
labor, and processes of constructing individual gendered identity. I would enlarge her
point to note that there is no reason to expect the three dimensions to covary or codeter-
mine each other, at least not directly. That is, extremely steep gradients between con-
trasting terms in gender symbolism may very well not correlate with sharp social-sexual
divisions of labor or social power, but they may be closely related to sharp racial
stratification or something else. Similarly, the processes of gendered subject formation
may not be directly illuminated by knowledge of the sexual division of labor or the
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Donna Haraway 599
gender symbolism in the part hand, we should expect med might move through quite di tice, and identity, such as r well as gender or race, might symbolism, social practice, an themselves when the parallel gender, race and science migh That is, racial divisions of labo bolic connections and format chart. Or formations of gend tween scientific social divisio The chart below begins an reality?), both gender and sci tains and obscures a structu nature/science. Each binary o tion, as resource to product, position are constructed and explicit term, further asym masculine to feminine, and f about remembering how a par The chart reflects common i may help as an analytical too GENDER SCIENCE
1) symbolic system symbolic system
2) social division of labor social division of labor
(by sex, by race, etc.) (e.g., by craft or industrial logics)
3) individual identity/subject position individual identity/subject position
(desiring/desired; autonomous relational) (knower/known; scientist/other)
4) material culture material culture
(e.g., gender paraphernalia and daily (e.g., laboratories, the na gender technologies, the narrow tracks which facts run)
on which sexual difference runs)
5) dialectic of construction and discovery dialectic of constructio 17. Katie King, “Canons without Innocence” (Ph.D. diss., Universi Santa Cruz, 1987).
18. Evelyn Fox Keller, in “The Gender/Science System: Or, Is Sex to Is to Science?” (Hypatia 2 [Fall 1987]: 37-49), has insisted on the imp opened up by the construction of the intersection of the distinctio gender, on the one hand, and nature and science, on the other. She need to hold to some nondiscursive grounding in “sex” and “nature,” calling the “body” and “world.”
19. See Sofoulis, chap. 3.
20. Donna Haraway, Primate Visions: Gender, Race, and Nature in th Science (New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul), forthcoming Spring 21. Katie King, prospectus for “The Passing Dreams of Choice … After: Audre Lorde and the Apparatus of Literary Production” Maryland, College Park, Maryland, 1987).
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